DPNR commissioner tenders her resignation

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ST. CROIX - Government House has confirmed that Gov. John deJongh Jr. accepted the resignation of Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes, which she tendered earlier this week.

Government House Spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said Wednesday that Barnes submitted her resignation letter dated Tuesday and that the governor received and accepted it the same day.

Barnes' resignation is effective at the end of this month, giving the administration two weeks two put things in place as she makes her departure, Greaux said.

Barnes also has been a member of the V.I. Water and Power Authority governing board for several years, after serving in managerial positions at WAPA for years. Once her employment with the government has come to an end, she also will be replaced on the WAPA board.

In her letter, Barnes did not provide any specific details as to the reason she had decided to leave the position, according to Greaux, but deJongh in accepting the resignation thanked her for her service to the people of the Virgin Islands and wished her well.

Barnes also did not give any insight into her future plans in her letter to the governor. DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen said Tuesday that Barnes had made it clear that she was not making any statements about her resignation or her plans at this time.

Greaux said it is not yet known who will replace Barnes as commissioner, but with two weeks before her resignation takes effect, he expects that an acting commissioner will be named by then.

"Clearly she is going to remain with the department until then, and we expect that someone will be named to run the department by then," he said.

He said it is not expected that there will be any interruption in the day-to-day operations of DPNR and that all scheduled projects relative to the department and other related Environmental Protection Agency matters will be handled accordingly as they arise.

Barnes had taken the lead role in the investigation and resolution of the situation in which classes at St. Croix Central High School were suspended March 18 when dozens of students were piled into ambulances and emergency medical vehicles after some type of noxious fumes caused them to experience vomiting, headaches and dizziness.

Through weeks worth of investigation, Barnes later announced that the problem was the result of a condemned sewage system, and she led a joint government agency mission to identify the specific location of leaks and eliminate the problem. The project still is ongoing, and Greaux specifically said that progress and work associated with that project will not be interrupted.

Barnes has a master's degree in business administration from the University of the Virgin Islands and a bachelor's degree in marine science and environmental studies from Hampton University. She was chosen by deJongh in January of 2011 to serve at the helm of the department mandated to protect, maintain, and manage the natural and cultural resources of the territory, and she has served uninterrupted since.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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